In the last two years, concerns about animal cruelty have come to the forefront as over two dozen family pets were killed in villages across the island.
This raises the question: Why would anyone intentionally harm an animal? Clinical psychologist Mary Fegurgur says it may have something to do with perception.
Do you consider your four-legged friend an animal or a family member?
The hypothesis is that individuals who are prone to hurt animals are related to interpersonal family violence, says Fegurgur.
But that doesn’t mean they were reared in an abusive home. Fegurgur is talking more about socialization.
Fegurgur says there is a possibility that the individual who harms an animal, let’s say a dog, might have been socialized into believing that kind of behavior is acceptable.
“Most families now perceive a dog or a cat or any kind of pet as a family member versus an animal. So a person who is more likely to hurt a dog or a cat or be cruel was probably socialized to treat an animal like an animal. They’re an animal they don’t have any feelings, they don’t feel any pain so when someone does those things — what we perceive as cruel and now illegal — they’re not necessarily seeing as a crime,” Fegurgur said.
She added: “If you did the same thing to a family member, they would be shocked and upset but they’re are not seeing that the dog or the cat is a family member for us.”
Fegurgur says there is research on individuals who are harmful to animals showing a co-existence with interpersonal family violence.
Interpersonal family violence could be child abuse, family violence between spouses, or could be a range of things that end up being a power and control type of interaction.
And the red flag could signal an underlying mental condition.